Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Instant flavouring.

May 14 ...

There is no doubt that our cookery guru of the week, the early nineteenth century Dr. William Kitchiner, loved ‘essences’ and spice mixes. In his book The Cook’s Oracle, he proudly boasts:

“ … this grand art of mixing and combining spices, &c., no one hitherto has attempted to teach: this is the first practical work on the subject, wherein the receipts are given accurately by weight and measure.”

He was clearly very proud of the invention he called The Magazine of Taste or Sauce Box, and this week we are exploring its delights. This sauce box (“a convenient auxiliary to the Cook”), he boasts, “will instantaneously produce any flavour that may be desired.” Instantaneously after the ingredients have been laboriously pounded that is – as in this handy recipe which fits into space number 21 in the mahogany box:

Savoury Ragout Powder.
Mustard, Allspice, and Black pepper ground and sifted fine, half an ounce each.
Ginger, Nutmeg grated, and Salt a quarter of an ounce each.
Mace, two drachms.
Cayenne pepper, one drachm.
Pound them in a mortar, and pass them through a fine hair sieve : bottle them for use. The above articles will pound much easier and finer if they are dried first in a Dutch oven before a very gently fire, at a good distance fiom it: if you give them too much heat, all the finest flavour of them will be evaporated, and they will get a strong rank taste.

It seems that the Magazine of Taste was not necessarily to be relegated to a kitchen drawer, but could be brought out to the table when one had company, to be arranged as a “pyramidal Epergne for a Dormant in the centre of the table”, and “with the help of this Magazine of Taste, every one in company may flavour their Soup, and Sauce, and adjust the vibrations of their Palate, exactly to their own Fancy.”

Sounds a bit anarchic to me – allowing a lot of guests with vibrating palates to toss pea-powder into the custard, and pudding catsup into the ragout, being completely unmindful of the effort of pounding and mixing that it all required.

The Magazine of Taste could also be used as a Travelling Store-Chest. Think on that next time you are looking for a gift for the campers or mobile-home owners in your family. Get out there to your shed and knock up a little mahogany box with space for twenty-eight bottles, then get back into the kitchen and start pounding and mixing. Actually, all flippancy aside, I think it would be a quite elegant gift, done properly. The individual mixes might be a fine idea for the Christmas hamper too, should you have a food-history buff in the family.

Soup-Herb Powder (or Vegetable Relish).
Dried Parsley, Winter Savoury, Sweet Marjoram, Lemon-thyme, of each two ounces;
Lemon-peel, cut very thin and dried, and Sweet Basil, an ounce of each.
(Some add to the above Bay-leaves and Celery-Seed a drachm each.)
Dry them in a warm, but not too hot Dutch oven: when quite dried, pound them in a mortar, and pass them through a double hair-sieve; put them in a bottle closely stopped, they will retain their fragrance and flavour for several months.

Salad or Piquante Sauce for Cold Meat, Fish etc.
Pound together an ounce of scraped Horseradish, half an ounce of Salt, a table-spoonful of made Mustard, Four drachms of minced Eschalots, half a drachm of Celery-Seed, And half ditto of Cayenne, Adding gradually a pint of Burnet, or Tarragon Vinegar and let it stand in a Jar a week, and then pass it through a sieve.

Tomorrow’s Story …

A little Soy.

Quotation for the Day ...

The powder is mixed with water and tastes exactly like powder mixed with water. Art Buchwald, on Liquid Diets.


Liz + Louka said...

It would certainly make a lovely gift, and most things can be "pounded" much more easily with a coffee grinder - but would the recipient expect one to keep topping it up? Or would one just give the recipes with the box?

The Old Foodie said...

One would definitely give the recipes with the box - a commitment to keep the box eternally full, even for one's closest friends would, I feel, be over generous.

The Old Foodie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

The tale I've heard is that gooseberries are so called because they are so sour that only the geese will eat them! I found gooseberries to be delicious, though, in the pies and preserves my mother made.